The Renwick Gates in the Smithsonian Libraries

 Morgan E. Aronson and Julia Blakely co-authored this piece.   James M. Goode, former Keeper of the Smithsonian Institution Building (affectionately known as “The Castle”) received this year the Individual Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation in Washington, DC. In a short biographical video for this honor, Dr. Goode references a guidebook in the Smithsonian Libraries as a key source in the creation of the Renwick Gates, one of his more »

Unearthing an 18th-Century Librarian-Gardener

Rare book cataloging can require some detective work. A recent case for me involved a record of ancient coins in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, transferred to the Smithsonian’s Dibner Library for cataloging from the National Museum of American History’s National Numismatic Collection. This is also a tale of how a book can reveal unexpected histories.

In Memoriam: William B. Walker (1930-2017)

William Bond Walker, the first librarian of the Smithsonian American Art and Portrait Gallery Library, died on February 22, 2017 at the age of 86. Bill Walker was hired in 1964 to manage the joint library of the National Collection of Fine Arts and the brand new National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution. The arts library was originally housed in the Arts & Industries Building, and Bill was instrumental in planning for all aspects of more »

America’s First Known African American Scientist and Mathematician

At the beginning of February, Black History Month, the former slave Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was much in the news. The most prominent African American of the 19th century, he first moved to Washington, D.C. in the early 1870s after his home in Rochester, New York burned down. Here he published his newspaper, The New National Era. From 1877 until his death in 1895, Douglass lived and worked in a stately Victorian house, more »

Celebrate the Potato

September is National Potato Month. Almost all the potatoes grown in the United States are planted in the spring and gathered in the fall. It is the time of year that schools in northern Maine have “harvest break” when students work to dig and sort the season’s spud crop soon after summer vacation. Maine’s custom is one small part of the very long and interwoven agricultural, economic, social, culinary, medical, and ritual more »

Olinguitos and Codex and Pandas – Oh My!

You may have noticed some exciting changes around the Smithsonian. The birth of a baby panda, the discovery of new mammal olinguito, and the display of Leonardo DaVinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds are just a few of our recent accolades.

The Book Conservation Lab: A Brief Tour

April 21-27 is Preservation Week!  In honor of this event, we will be featuring preservation-related content on the Smithsonian Libraries’ blog as well as our other social media outlets, like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Today, we offer you a peek inside our own Book Conservation Lab! The Preservation Services Division of the Smithsonian Libraries is committed to the preservation, safe exhibition, and long-term access to collections objects, many of which are irreplaceable. The primary mission of the Book Conservation Lab (BCL) is to treat special and general collections items needed for research, exhibition or digitization.

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